It was the bartender and Chef from the Old Forge pub’s last night on Knoydart. They were ecstatic to have complete their last torturous moments under the wrath of the Belgian Landlord. Naturally, drinks were in order.
Part way through the merriment of the night, someone entered a debate with me as to whether I would be able to climb Sgurr Na Ciche from the village in one day. They insisted that it would be near-impossible, requiring at least 16 hours. The fact that I had a rare day off working and knew the weather would be agreeable left zero choice in my mind. Having got back to my static caravan slightly fuzzy-headed in the early hours of the morning, I set the alarm for 6:30am.
The route was easy, just incredibly long. Just before 7:30 I began by huffing my bike along through the village, up the barrisdale track, past the Nazi sympathiser statue, and long to the bridge just before Druim bothy. From there I ran up to Mam Meadail, reaching this point about 1hr30 into the journey. I then had the knee jerking, energy relieving scurry down to cross the bridge by the Carnoch ruins. From here I followed the track on the eastern side of the burn, before taking a steep, scrambling ascent up the north-western slopes of Sgurr Na Ciche. Coming essentially from sea level (shores of Loch Nevis), I felt each and every one of those 1,040m.
The early start and slight hangover had meant that an entirely insufficient portion of porridge had been consumed. So at the less than reassuring 500m mark, I stopped to have a 10:30am lunch. A small portion of leftover roast vegetable couscous didn’t quite satisfy, and morale ran relatively low when I realised that I had forgotten the chocolate.
Determined to fulfil the quest to summit SNC and return within daylight hours, I hauled on.
Reaching the 900m plateau was a bittersweet moment. The sheer, endlessly moss-clad bog slog was over. However, energy levels were on an amber warning, and the stag and hinds upon the final rough-chopped Rocky summit seemingly sniggered at my incongruous appearance.
Nonetheless, the final scramble provided much pleasure, as I stuck to my usual method of seeking out slightly more awkward/technical routes through the crag-slope mix, albeit at a far slower pace.
I reached the summit of Sgurr Na Ciche by approx 13:30, and took pleasure in soaking up the views.
The mountain’s ridge ambled down towards Sourlies, marking the easterly head of Loch Nevis. It was the furthest distance I had ever walked from my base, stretching round and across the saline waters, in Inverie. For months I had been captivated by the distant sight of SNC, with its distinctive pointed top, as can be seen from a select few vantage points - the ferry crossing, Glaschoille, and its neighbouring (yet far more accessible Munro) Luinne Bheinn. It never ceased to taunt; its leering presence a beacon in the rough and remote vistas that had become home to me.
As splendid as it would have been to conclude my efforts on that high, I naturally needed to make haste for my return. I traipsed westwards down the ridge, and made for a steep descent back down to the track on the east of the burn. Rather than crossing at the bridge I forged the waters - My trail runners were already at bog saturation level, so the cool, knee deep flow offered a cleansing relief and slightly more direct return to the steep zigzag path back up to Mam Meadail (another ascent just shy of 500m). Needless to say, my return pace was far more staggered. My swift progress to the summit annihilated all need for urgency. I returned back to the BnB where I worked by 18:00, 10 and a half hours after having set off.
Not a bad effort considering the 4 hours sleep.
Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.